Thursday, November 16, 2006

That's not good

A report in the Telegraph claims that Iran is attempting to take effective control of al Qaeda, to use the organization to Iranian ends.

This is both odd, and disturbing. Odd, because al Qaeda is a Sunni terrorist organization, and its leaders have been highly intolerant of Shiites. Zarqawi, who was allied with bin Laden in Iraq, actually called for the genocide of Shiites. So it would seem either that this report is wrong, or that Iran is operating on the principles of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." This is in itself a little strange because Iran does not lack for terrorist organizations that it already has close relationships with, most notably Hezbollah. But if Iran is gearing up for a potential war with the U.S., then it makes sense to cultivate relationships with al Qaeda, as it is the organization most capable of striking at Western targets in the West in retaliation for a strike on Iran's nuclear program.

The prospect of al Qaeda becoming a proxy for (or at least a partner of) Iran is certainly disturbing, chiefly because of Iran's vast resources and its nuclear program. But would this closer relationship actually increase the risk of al Qaeda getting a nuclear weapon? Arguably, the closer the relationship between Iran and al Qaeda is perceived to be by the West, the more likely it is that the U.S./UK would retaliate against Iran if a bomb goes off in London or New York, regardless of whether it could be definitively linked to the regime. So this may not be a step closer to any "doomsday scenario." It is undoutedbly, however, a step closer to an alliance that cannot be in Western interests. Al Qaeda doesn't need a nuclear weapon to do serious damage to Western democracies; the more the Iranians work with them, the worse off we are.

Incidentally, Iran shouldn't be too cocky: while it's currently in an excellent position relative to the United States because of the disaster in Iraq, if Iran is seen as having been a state sponsor of al Qaeda following another attack of the scale of September 11, Americans' learned skepticism of regime change might quickly vanish.


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